Sunday, October 2, 2016

Munich & Oktoberfest

It was a happy coincidence that I was scheduled for a business trip to Germany in September.  I had no idea that Oktoberfest starts in September!  Ha!   
For your future planning needs... the festival starts on the third weekend of September and ends on the first weekend of October.  This year, it goes through Monday, October 3rd which is “German Unity Day” celebrating East and West Germany reunifying in 1990. 26 years ago, wow, how time flies.

It was unseasonably beautiful and warm during our quick visit.  We flew down from Frankfurt in the late afternoon (a very quick 30 minute flight) and made our way into the city via the train.  After dropping our bags at the hotel, we made our way into the center square, the Marienplatz where many of the landmarks are located.  Rushing, we wanted to get there in time for the 5pm show of the “Glockenspiel”. It’s a beautiful town hall building , called Neues Rathaus, with many ornate towers, including one with some open windows and some ornate carvings that are an enchanting carousel of figurines dancing around the center post as the music plays.   
As to that glockenspiel, one co-worker, who had seen it before, said it was a bit “under-whelming” and while I was so thrilled to finally see and hear it, I had to agree it was a wee bit anti climatic.
Lots of videos on YouTube if you are curious.

Below is a shot of the town hall and glockenspiel as the sun started to set, everything was a beautiful pink color.

We walked the square and took in the other sites, church towers, church and wandered through the streets happening upon an outdoor market with outdoor eating and drinking called the Viktualienmarkt.  The market was humming with locals and tourists alike as people wandered through the individual tents looking at all the offerings; honey, fresh produce, cheese, meats, handicrafts and more.

Honey vendor


A great variety of fresh fruit and veggies at the produce market.

Mushroom vendor, including masses of fresh chantrelles 

Even some fresh truffles for 17-40 euros a piece. 

Lots of souvenirs, like these cookies, which are everywhere during Oktoberfest
Sausages, bacon and ham with some brews to go


Right next to this tent was a small “table” height fountain with a motley crew of guys and gals congregating to drink their beer, keeping them cold in the fountain as they sipped & chatted. 

We ate dinner that night at an outdoor restaurant enjoying roasted pig knuckle, large perfectly round potato dumplings, and of course, beer!   

We talked of shopping for lederhosen for the next night’s plan to attend Oktoberfest with friends.  I had to admit that I had purchased a traditional dirndl in our last stop of Herborn, a small quaint town, at our first stop. I was kind of embarrassed to admit I bought it, but next thing we know, one of my peers has to have some lederhosen for the next night's festivities. 

Traditional outfits of lederhosen (either shorts or the longer knicker style) are everywhere as locals and tourists alike wear the cute traditional outfits.  Shop around, you can spend a lot of money on a costume, but honestly, you can find something quite nice for $100, or a wee bit more.  Guys, plan ahead and bring a bright colored gingham check shirt to go with your lederhosen.

The festival grounds are huge, I mean, immense!  They say that on a big year that over 7 million visitors attend in those two weeks, so almost a half a million people a night…  and of course, MORE on weekends.   

There are over 9 beer halls with different themes, and the only way for a brewery to be part of Oktoberfest is to be a locally based Munich brewery.  There are many themes for each of the halls, some known for their beef menus and others for their sausage.  It seems that many of the hordes of worldwide nationalities that attend, tend to visit certain halls, as an example, the Lowenbrau tent is known as the “American” tent.  I hate to think that it’s because that’s the one beer name we recognize!?!   As we were attending with our business compatriots, we joined a more local tent, but frankly, anything goes, there is a potpourri of nationalities everywhere you look.

Here's the dinner, a couple of beers and the huge pretzels they sell from huge baskets as the vendors wander the halls. 
From the hillside as you approach the Oktoberfest fair grounds.

There are many places to sit within the hall, or stand.  I’d suggest getting onto the main floor, and not the upper galleries, or sides of the main hall. The main floor is where all the action is! 

Frankly, I might suggest you wear a comfy, stable shoe, as I expect you’ll be standing on your bench, at your table, and singing and toasting your friends and neighbors.  Expect to meet new people, expect to learn something new about the people you came with, prepare to lose some inhibitions... have a blast.

The night we were there, it was very, very warm as the temperature made it to 75F on Sept 29th, and inside the beer halls, it was lots, lots warmer.  A little stroll outside on the what we Americans call the "midway" with all the carnival rides and booths of games. We walked and enjoyed the rides, the side shows and the walk up bars (in case you’re full of beer and need a schnapps or a mojito!  Hahaha, not even making that up).
We took a ride on the ferris wheel and enjoyed our views of the Oktoberfest site and the lit up sites beyond.   

It was a beautiful, stupendous way to spend about  36 hours in Munich, .... even if we did work and sleep! What a fantastic place!  I’d like to return.  Next year. This time.  Same place.   Shall we?

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  1. Yes please. We loved Berlin and vowed to go back to Germany. Oktoberfest is a must! Lets do it!